TM: Sorry, no 2018 FIFA World Cup broadcast on Unifi TV

Unifi TV 2018 FIFA World Cup

It’s deja vu. The biggest blackout since the 2013 general elections will happen from 14 June to 15 July 2018. Telekom Malaysia (TM) has announced that there will be a blackout of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia on Unifi TV via its Free-to-Air (FTA) channels, namely Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM). As you may know, RTM has secured FTA rights to selected World Cup matches, and will be airing matches to the general public.

The Unifi TV blackout is similar to what happened four years ago, then HyppTV.

In a nutshell, there are two types of broadcast rights – Pay TV and Free-to-Air. Exclusive Pay TV broadcasting rights belong to Astro, and this covers all 64 matches including media rights to TV, mobile and internet. Astro has held exclusive rights to the World Cup since 2006.

RTM, through efforts of the new Communications and Multimedia ministry, has secured airing rights to 41 out of 64 matches, out of which 27 will be broadcasted live.

The FTA rights has been said to cost to a tune of MYR30 million. As announced yesterday, Maxis has stepped in to become the lead broadcast sponsor for RTM’s World Cup initiative. The telco has also partnered Astro to offer an exclusive deal for its subscribers.

So, why isn’t Free-to-Air, free? If the content is freely available via a FTA channel like RTM, shouldn’t it be free on Unifi TV, too?

TM Unifi TV SMS

Apparently not. Unifi TV is bound by the same broadcast rules as RTM, hence would need to shell out similar millions of bucks to secure rights to the biggest event of the year.

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TM, in a statement it issued in 2014, said that the blackout is an industry-related flaw and needs to be addressed by regulators. It lamented that events that are broadcasted via FTA channels that are aired on the Unifi TV platform should be “free to air.”

Aside from making regular trips to the mamak, or knocking of friends’ doors, there are several other ways to catch up with World Cup action:

The 2018 FIFA World Cup takes place from 14 June to 15 July in Russia.

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